Estonian startup Lingvist opens Tokyo office (1)

Estonian startup Lingvist opened its new office in Tokyo on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (Tauno Tõhk/Government Office of Estonia)
By Priit Rajalo
4/11/2016 4:52 PM
Category: Business

Language learning program Lingvist, an Estonian-created startup, opened its new office in Tokyo, Japan last Wednesday. While the new Tokyo office will be focusing on utilizing Lingvist’s web-based language program to teach locals in Japan English, the startup’s development team is to remain based in Estonia.

Last November, Japanese technology giant Rakuten, which has an annual turnover of approximately €4.5 billion, invested €8 million in Estonian language-learning startup Lingvist, reported Estonian nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.” The investment was to support the company’s development of its program to teach the English language to the Japanese.

Last week, Lingvist opened its Japanese office in Tokyo, in a building also housing the offices Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder, CEO and chairman of Rakuten, one of Japan’s most influential businesses. Lingvist’s Tokyo office will initially employ two individuals.

“Most of the development will continue to occur in Estonia, where the startup’s entire technical team and most of its management already resides,” explained Lingvist’s business developer, Ave Habakuk. “In Japan, the only focus will be on the development of Japanese-language lessons. Somewhere toward the end of the year, we would like to begin making greater inroads into the Japanese market.”

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas traveled to Japan for a six-day official visit last week, accompanied by a 25-person delegation of Estonian businessmen from a variety of fields, ranging from IT-businessmen and industrialists to venture capitalists and representatives of travel agents. One major aim of the trip was to provide Estonian businesses the opportunity to expand to include Japanese markets, as well as attract more Japanese investors to Estonia.

“There is clearly an interest among Japanese businessmen,” stated Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas. “If we can tell people that Rakuten or Mikitani have already invested in Estonia and bought two Estonian companies, then that is a sign of quality for other Japanese businesses.”

Japan is also very interested in Estonia’s public sector e-solutions, such as its e-tax board and e-schools. While Japan is itself is often considered to be at the forefront of innovative new technologies, it has only recently begun to implement a nationwide ID-card program similar to Estonia’s, the latter of which has already been in use for 16 years.

The Estonian prime minister and accompanying business delegation returned to Estonia on Sunday.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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